Not all who wander are lost.
Another adventure in the books. We have a thing for exploring, getting out of our comfort zone and off the grid. We laugh because through all of life, we all travel very well together. Our travel is not for everyone. I’ll hear the compliments that our trip looked fun, beautiful and all things in between. But, this type of traveling comes with those things that are not picture perfect on Instagram.
When we wander, we always have to make a plan. We need a route, we need that route to get us to our destination in the daylight and we need to be properly packed. When we camp it comes with days ahead of prepping. We tent camp. We do it well. I’d like to think I pack more efficiently than someone else, but don’t let him know that. We have to pack knowing the days and what we’ll be pulling out to wear.
When you tent camp-there are a few considerations to not take lightly. If you’re in Bear territory-you cannot smell like any thing. You cannot leave your scent on anything. Which means a lot of plastic bins, a lot of plastic bags, and bear spray as your best friend.
Once you’ve eaten, all food items need to be properly washed away from the camp site, and put away typically in your car, or bear box. Garbage needs to be disposed in bear aware garbage containers away from the campsite.
S’mores can happen, but then headlamps and a late night trek to the car are due to put everything back.
This particular trip we took we were on the outskirts of the Carolinas in the heart of the Smoky Mountains.
We were on a camp site which took reservations, which most State Parks are first come first serve. This particular site was along a rapid stream. Truly the noise machine was our river. But, with no volume or off button. Campers were sparse. We were along the Appalachian Trail, allowing campers to come in at night and rest. One night campers came in past midnight and I laid awake watching their flashlights and shadows and prayed we would all be alive in the morning, imagining scenes from every bad 80’s horror movie I’ve watched.
In bear aware territory I sleep with this fun knife. Really it would mean a bear or mountain lion would have to have already attacked us to do anything. And unlike the stories we read, these animals really want nothing to do with us, but I still feel we’d be a light appetizer for some.
We were in Black Bear territory. When we arrived I asked the ranger how many bear sightings and how far from the site they were. He kinda laughed and said,
“You’re in their territory, this is where they live, they were sighted about a mile out, a sighting every day”-lovely. Black Bear, still wild animals, don’t create that fear in me the way Grizzly and Puma do.
When the kids asked me if they had to be scared of bear or mountain lion more, I honestly told them mountain lion. (My exact words when I found out we were in puma territory was “they eat your face off-but don’t run from them”, meant to be sarcastic, but didn’t sit well with a few). When we hike, we know to talk loud and make noises and sing, and carry our buddy Bear Spray. When we sleep, we bookend an adult on each side of the tent and let the kiddos sleep in the center with bins by our heads. To be honest, I often don’t sleep-well. And I often think about how much flights will be for our next trip into a beach destination and envision myself unpacking once and the smells of clean sheets. So….
This is a vacation right?
There’s nothing like camping. There is no television or WiFi for that matter. But, there is NO boredom. Each child has a pocket knife, a real one. They often never sit unless they are carving their walking stick or debarking the sticks they find. We gather fire wood, we find insects so insanely weird I often wonder if possibly we just discovered them. We get scared from little noises or cracks we hear in the forest. We talk a lot. We change a little.
We push ourselves to hike past areas that look scary coming up to it and then often have some form of beautiful reward.
Like this gather of butterflies in front of a waterfall that would gather all together and then all fly away when we got near, later to find out it was on a pile of “you know what”-making this beautiful mess truly what it sounded like.
When we are in camping zone, our minds shift. I sometimes count the hours until we get to shower in a real shower-or at all. We brush our teeth together in the public bathrooms, we dodge the stalls with spiders and we hold it all night long, so we don’t have to make that walk in the dark to go.
If you’re lucky with outside of your body plumbing, you get to jump out the tent and find a tree.
We’ve experimented with out meals. We keep a seasoned skillet that tastes a bit like everything we’ve cooked on it. We’ve brought in food to cook. We’ve brought in backwoods survival REI dry foods. Kids have liked both. When you’re hungry it all tastes great. We eat healthier because the more natural the food the less you have to throw away. We often make bacon every morning and watch the fog, steam float into the trees.
(I often wonder if we’re just being idiots and sending bacon signals to a family of bear).
We use water bottles, and water backpacks, we have hiking shoes that can get wet and dry fast. We measure distance often by the minutes it takes us to walk. We lie and say we’re 5 minutes out every 5 minutes. We encourage each other, especially those with little legs that want to be held at the end of our hikes. We celebrate when we make it to our destinations. I’ve learned to put up a tent and set up “home” within less than an hour. We try to leave with less than what we came with. We donated our tarp to the midnight hikers, campers (who were college students taking on the trail), because it rained and they could use it a as a roof to eat under.
We’ve learned tricks, table clothes are important, bug spray is even more important, flip flops are sorta useless.
There’s nothing like it though.
Our kids will say they grew up camping, they can decide if they like it or not.
Sometimes I don’t even like it, then I love it again.
I once told my kids,
“When life is hard and you don’t know what to do or you need help making a decision,
just go out in nature.
Take a walk.
Just be still.
Get out into a forest.”
We were really made to wander.